Vacation Animal Feeder
A vacation is always a nice experience. Usually, you wait for it for several months and want to enjoy your free time to the full extent. Though things might complicate if you have a pet. Of course, you might take him with you but what if the trip is too long or there is no opportunity for your pet to accompany you?

You need to organize everything for your pet to feel comfortable during your absence. First, it means providing him with a constant source of food and water. While providing an animal with water is not a super complicated task, arranging a food source might be tricky. A smart animal will eat whatever is left and will starve until you arrive.

One option is to ask somebody, a friend, or a relative, to take care of your pet while you are away. The person shall be reliable enough and you shall trust him/her enough to let him/her into your home while you are out. There is an easier option, too. With the help of an actuator like this one, you can make an automatic feeder for your four-paws friend.

A wide variety of models allows you to choose a solution that fits your needs. If you need to make a feeder for a small animal, you might want to get a smaller actuator. For bigger items, you can choose actuators with a bigger stroke.

The stroke and the power of your item depends also on whether you are going to make a big feeder (it is a solution that you need even for a smaller pet in case you leave for a long time) or a small one (for a smaller pet if you are leaving just for a couple of days).

Now, it is time to check how you can make an automatic feeder.

Automatic Feeder: A Version for Beginners

You can make this automatic feeder even if you have never made anything like this before. It is easy to handle, and you need just the basics. 
  • You need:
  • An actuator;
  • A cardboard box;
  • A container for food;
  • Now, we proceed with building an automated pet feeder.

Prepare a cardboard box. Make a platform that fits into the box. You can use the bottom of the same box for more convenience.

Attach the platform to the arm of the actuator. You might want to make the platform slightly inclined to make the food drop easily.

Attach the bottom of the servo to the cardboard base. Move the actuator arm inside of the cardboard box. Now, it is time to fix the bottom with tape.

Cut out a hole on one side of the box. The lowest part shall be at the low point of the platform. The highest part shall be at the high point of the platform.

Attach the servo to Arduino and program it to lower the platform, say, every 12 hours. You might choose another feeding frequency depending on what your pet is used to.

Move the actuator up. Now, you can fill the upper part with food. When the time comes, the actuator will lower the platform, and the food will spill out in the container.

Test the feeder to make sure the needed amount of food is provided. Make sure your pet gets used to it before you leave.

Automatic Feeder: An Advanced Version

If you believe that the previous version is too simple, we have one more option for you. What about a smart pet feeder? If you like the idea, prepare the needed items and follow the instruction.

For a smart cat feeder, you need:
  • 2 cans;
  • A servo motor;
  • Thick wires;
  • A double bowl;
  • A piece of Styrofoam;
  • Tape;
  • Arduino.
  • Now, we move on with the process.

Take two cans for storing food. Make a pivot hole and a feeding opening in both. Make sure that the servo adapter fits in the pivot holes.

If you want, you can decorate the cans. You can use paper or stickers to do so.

With thick wire, attach the servo adapter to the pivot hole of one can. Now, fix the servo to the pivot hole of the other can.

Fix the bottoms of the cans together. Now, when you power the servo, the cans will rotate. The feeding opening will close and open.

Near the feeding opening, cut out one more opening, in the form of a smile. Make a funnel for a container with food. Fit the funnel in into the “smile”.

Take the bowl of your pet (it shall have two sections) and a piece of Styrofoam. Fit the foam into one section of the bowl. With tape, attach to it the cap of the food can. On the cap, install the construction from cans.

On the backside of the bottom can, make holes for wires. Connect them with the servo and the Arduino board. Fill in the upper can with food. Cover the upper part.

Program the Arduino to activate the servo with the needed frequency.

Train your pet to eat from the feeder. If you do not do so, the animal might become stressed when you leave, and it will influence his health negatively. 

Final Thoughts

Making an automated pet feeder instead of buying one will save you a decent sum (yes, they are not cheap). You can make the feeder of a needed size and decorate it to match the place. A good idea is to add to the food some treats so that your pet gets used to the new way of being fed.

Even though such feeders are reliable if you make them properly, it is still a good idea to ask somebody to pass by now and then to check whether the animals are fine. It is also needed to refill the feeder, especially if you go on a long trip. But with such a feeder, your animals are safer, and you are definitely more independent.